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Mia X – Good Girl Gone Bad [Album Review]

Before she gave birth to a Tank, Mia Young was born in New Orleans’ 7th Ward in January 1970, growing up in the established musical Mecca known primarily for jazz. Throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s, however, another art form rooted in the streets of the Bronx, NY, was beginning to grip the nation’s youth. Hip hop provided an outlet for young, aspiring MCs to showcase their rhymes and life experiences, while also highlighting their region’s spin on the developing genre. New Orleans was no different.

Young, who in her early teens was now going by the stage name Mia X, originally founded and fronted a group called New York Incorporated in the mid-80’s with friends DJ Wop, Denny D and another young DJ by the name of Mannie Fresh. The group, along with incredibly influential artists like Gregory D, soon became a fixture in the city’s growing hip hop community. It wasn’t until 1992 though that Mia began experiencing her first real taste of success with a record titled “Da Payback.”

By the early 90’s, New Orleans’ own bounce music, an infectious sub-genre that catered to project parties and clubs, was the only thing getting real air play in the city. If it wasn’t bounce it wasn’t big. Male-dominated and often known for clowning women, Mia’s “Payback” was a scathing response to all wannabe pimps and players but above all, was a genuinely hot record. Mia’s mic presence was natural but “Da Payback” all but confirmed she could also out-rap anyone. The song’s growing buzz put Mia on the road performing throughout the south and garnering modest attention from record labels, including one black-owned company based in Richmond, California.

Image result for mia x payback

Master P, born in New Orleans’ Calliope Projects, founded No Limit Records in the Bay Area but was now back in The Boot looking to pluck some homegrown talent and establish a flagship female act for his label. With the streets still sizzling from “Da Payback”, P approached Mia and convinced her to come out to Cali for some session work and contributions to upcoming projects. Impressed with P’s stable of Bay Area beat-makers but not wanting to abandon her musical identity, Mia introduced the No Limit CEO to an up-and-coming producer by the name of KLC.

With the addition of KLC and P’s cousin, Mo B. Dick, to the label’s production crew, the No Limit sound started to take shape throughout 1994 and 1995. After the surprising success of Master P’s group, TRU (which now featured Mia as a full-fledged member) and their summer smash “I’m Bout It”, No Limit began promoting and preparing for Mia’s debut album, Good Girl Gone Bad. The project, released in late 1995, was a regional success but, most importantly, solidified Mia X as the premiere lyricist on the Tank.

The album starts with “The Ghetto Sarah Lee” – a fresh interpolation (courtesy of Mo B. Dick) of Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” that sports a nice feature from East Oakland’s biggest female duo, The Conscious Daughters. Established as they were at the time, one can’t help but focus solely on Mia’s sultry, smooth delivery. Her 16s are further bolstered by her ability to croon a hook to perfection; a skill that separates her from most of her peers of the era. “Yo Boyz” is an I-told-you-so tale from the perspective of a loyal woman trying time and time again to warn her man of fake friends that hide behind a smile. All in when you’re ballin’ but ghost when you need them the most, Mia’s PSA reminds all hustlers, G’z and dope boys to confide in your woman because when things go sour – they’re often the only ones truly holding it down.

Master P and Big Ed join Mia X on a “Mission 2 Get Paid”, a near-five minute, Cali-flavored cut. P’s strained freestyle anchors the first half of the song before lobbing it up to (the more technically sound) Mia and Ed for the closing verses. Although this feels more suited for P’s 99 Ways To Die project, it still works well. The album’s first “Commercial” is notable for Master P’s not-so-subtle shot at The Luniz:

Remember them fools talkin’ crazy about the Ice Cream Man? Let’s show them why I’m the real Ice Cream Man cause I can do whatever I want…

And what P wants here is to flip The Luniz’ “I Got 5 On It” beat into a fresh back-and-forth exchange between Mia X and Suga T (of “Sprinkle Me” fame), explaining why you “Can’t Trust A Man.” Suga’s cameo offers added credibility to the burgeoning label and further proves Mia’s skills are on par with the best females in the game. “Commercial 2” is more of a breezy sing-a-long interlude than an actual skit but serves its purpose nevertheless. “Da Payback II” circles back to the anthem that secured her deal with No Limit and although it doesn’t stray too far from the original, this version is musically superior. It’s a rare example of a sequel surpassing its predecessor. “Here Comes The Drama”, with its whiny synths and layered vocals, finds Tre-8 and Mia tag-teaming G-Funkish production that feels every bit of 1995. The song works but sounds slightly out of place when compared to the rest of the album.

Mia X’s vulnerability and determination highlight “My Everything” – an uplifting depiction of an expecting single parent questioning whether or not she can raise a child at such a young age. The song’s subject matter is absolutely necessary but isn’t addressed enough in hip hop. The autobiographical nature, coupled with Mia’s crooning and heartfelt outro, make this one of the best entries of her solo catalogue. The title track’s funky top-down vibe is a worthy platform for Mia’s reflective stories about all the good girls gone bad. Her delivery is maternal without being judgmental or preachy. “Commercial 3” is another one of King George’s Rev. Do-Wrong skits (found previously on Master P’s 99 Ways To Die and TRU’s True projects) and really acts as a pointless add-on to an otherwise stellar album. Skip it.

Mia X looks back on the politics of her hood with “Ghetto Ties”, a gumbo groove with a chorus aided by the noticeably-absent Mr. Serv-On and Master P. Her flow has never been sharper as she reminisces on the days of the dirty dozens and keeping the same friends despite her success. The Staple Singers’ “Let’s Do It Again” is reworked into the feel-good “Wanna Be Wit U” – Mia’s sexually-driven love letter to her man. Again, her song-writing prowess (especially from a crooning perspective) is on full display as she playfully sings about being ready for it all when she sees him.

Good Girl Gone Bad” closes with a dedication that would later become a mainstay of Mia’s albums (think Mystikal’s “Murder” series). “R.I.P. Jill” is a tribute to Mia’s best friend, Jill, who was murdered while Mia was recording this album. It opens with a somber KLC giving Mia the encouragement to record the song, offering a glimpse at just how hard it was for her to put on wax. Backed by KL’s earthy drums, she approaches the song as a conversational piece and promises to carry on her legacy; a fitting conclusion to the album.

Although it wasn’t as big as Mia’s sophomore follow-up (Unlady Like) or as polished as her third offering (Mama Drama), “Good Girl Gone Bad” is an important piece of the No Limit puzzle and can’t be overlooked when ranking their classics. Mia X’s ultimate gift as an artist is her ability to appeal and relate to young and old, thin and big and any and all. She wasn’t a packaged product used to sell sex or an obligatory female addition to a label full of gangsta rappers. Her reputation as an MC remains intact because it was backed by skill and a love for hip hop – characteristics ever-present on her debut.

Overall Vibes: 7.9/10

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Written by Stephen Lee

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